MISSIONS – MORE THAN JUST BUILDINGS

When we visited our daughter in Texas, she took us on a tour of some of the missions and monuments erected in and about San Antonio.  It was fascinating to look at these sites and to think about the people who lived at the time they were built. 

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Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas, built in 1720.

Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was known as the “Queen of the Missions” that were built in the San Antonio area. 

The priests’ rooms were built down an exterior corridor along the side of the mission. 

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The priests’ rooms along the corridor at the mission.

The mission was like most Spanish missions, it was not primarily a place of worship.  Rather, the mission was the focal point of activity for those living in the area. It provided safety within its walls, when many of the people lived in much less secure homes.  It provided social interaction and communication among neighbors who loved long distances apart.  It provided a community of people who lived together and, then, who worshiped together at this place. 

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Mission San Jose – as restored for us to see and appreciate.

Mission San José has been restored and it illustrates how all the missions might have looked over 250 years ago.  The grounds are beautiful and induce a sense of tranquility even though, when the mission was in use, it was bustling with activity, people and produce.

The missionaries who established the Mission San José worked on behalf of their Lord and Savior in bringing Christ to the people who had not heard of Him before. 

While we may not erect buildings such as the Mission San José, we do have an obligation, as believers in Jesus Christ, to tell others of His sacrificial death and of their need for a Savior. 

Jesus told us to spread the gospel in Matthew 28:19 when He said:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

This was repeated in Acts 1:8 when Jesus told the disciples:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Apostles then and the Christian believers since then have been under Jesus’ commission to be witnesses of His gospel in our home city, in surrounding areas, and to the end of the earth.  That is what missionary work is – first at home, then in local areas (home missions) and then around the world (foreign missions). 

Paul understood the obligation to preach the gospel to all he encountered when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:16:

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Paul saying “Woe to me”?  He understood the mandate to reach others with the Word of God.  His conviction was so strong, that he stated this warning.  We would do well to take heed to these words.

It has been said that if we do not tell others of their sin and of their need of the Savior, we do not have a right concept of heaven and hell.  If we truly believed that the unrepentant person would spend eternity in suffering in hell, we would be on the street corner grabbing any and all who would stop in our effort to avoid having even one person in that horrible place. 

  • Missions – it may be a beautiful stone structure in which God is proclaimed and the Christian life is lived out as a testimony of the power of the gospel.
  • Missions – it may be speaking to people in a foreign country about God and about His Son to a people who have never heard of a God of love and grace.
  • Missions – it may be living a Christian life in witness to God’s grace before your coworkers and being ready to speak to them of sin and punishment, of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death, of grace and unspeakable joy in the Lord Jesus.
  • Missions – it may be teaching your children or grandchildren of God’s love and of Jesus’ death on the cross, leading them to learn of Him and praying that the Spirit would work on their behalf to seal them as Christians.

 The following poem was taken from a tract published by Christian Laymen’s Tract League many years ago, as it was found in my Uncle’s well-worn Bible:

Speak out for Jesus

You talk about your business, your bonds and stocks and gold;

And in all worldly matters you are so brave and bold.

But why are you so silent about salvation’s plan?

Why don’t you speak for Jesus, and speak out like a man?

You talk about the weather, and the crops of corn and wheat;

You speak of friends and neighbors that pass along the street;

You call yourself a Christian, and like the Gospel plan –

Then why not speak for Jesus, and speak out like a man?

Are you ashamed of Jesus and the story of the cross,

That you lower His pure banner and let it suffer loss?

Have you forgot His suffering?  Did He die for you in vain?

If not, then live and speak for Jesus, and speak out like a man.

Here is a musical offering that I pray will be a blessing to you.   Ms. Robin Kochis is singing “How Beautiful” from the album Great is Thy Faithfulness.  How beautiful are the feet of those that bring the message of Jesus Christ to a lost soul seeking relief from sin that only Jesus can bring. 

May each of us, both men and women, bear His message wherever we go without being ashamed to raise His name! 

 

Lord, forgive me when I have failed to speak your name to others.  Forgive me when I have kept your gift of salvation to myself and have not shared with others the joy and comfort of an intimate relationship with the Creator God who we can now call Father because of your sacrifice.  I praise You, my Lord and Savior.  Give me the wisdom, strength and courage to speak your name to others today.

WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

A simple glance at a garden, forest or lawn gives evidence that all flowers and trees are not the same.   What is in the seed of the plant is what will come out as it matures.

 

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Palm tree at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas.

 

We know, for example, that it is futile to ask a date palm or a fig tree to grow as a shrub or to bloom as a rose.

 

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Flowering shrub planted in front yard, definitely not a rose!.

 

 

We can identify the plant by its fruit. Every farmer knows this, and even those of us who are from the city know this is true.

 

It was true 2000 years ago, too.  See, for example, Scripture in the Book of  James where the writer talks about the consistency between the seed and the fruit in James 3:9-12 [ESV] just after speaking of the difficulty of taming the tongue:

 

With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

 

In other words, what is inside the plant determines what the outer growth will be.  In like manner, what is in my heart and soul will determine what my actions will be.

 

Thus, I need to consider my words and actions in light of my assertion that I am a believer in Jesus Christ and that I have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Non-believers will be evaluating me at every moment … what kind of affect does this Jesus have on my life? Are my words loving or are they cutting?  Are they affirming or are they hurtful?  Am I building up or tearing down?

 

When I curse or say unkind things to others, I think “Where did that come from?”   Scripture would answer that question by saying “It is from sin”.   We still will sin because we are not our Lord. Even the Apostle Paul said:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Romans 7:15 [ESV]

 

But, the good news is that Jesus conquered the disease of sin that infected each person since Adam’s fall when He died on the cross to take our punishment and to cover us in His righteousness before His Father, the Holy God of Scripture.   Therefore, as believers in Jesus Christ, our old sin nature no longer holds control over us. In short, we are able to, and we should be, exhibiting Jesus’ nature.

 

The Apostle Paul tells us that the evidence of our being new creatures in Christ is the growth of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:21-22.

 

These qualities have their source in the Holy Spirit and, while their names are common, the characteristics that should be evident in the Christian by virtue of the Holy Spirit residing in her heart are anything but common.

 

So, when people hear me speaking, do they hear tantrums and outbursts or do they hear the voice of Jesus?   When I interact with others in a commercial setting, do they hear anger and fury because of some delay which was unavoidable or do they see Jesus’ patience when He dealt with people who could not understand, even showing patience with those who actively rejected His words?

 

In short, the question is whether I, as a believer in Christ, exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, i.e., characteristics of His Spirit given to us by the Holy Spirit, as I live my life before others around me?    We should be striving for living a life consistent with the characteristics of Jesus Christ as He gives us the grace to so do through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

I know that I have to confess my sin for refusing to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and for denying my Lord by my actions before others. What about you?

 

Father, forgive me when I have ignored your Spirit and have acted and spoken in ways that undermined my witness for my Lord and Savior.  I pray that I would keep my eyes focused on you, and that I would reflect Jesus Christ to those around me. I ask that the fruit of the Spirit would grow and be evident in my life, so that You will be honored and glorified in all things.

TREES – UNIQUE AS OUR OWN PERSONAL WITNESS

It is no secret that I have long been an admirer of trees. All different kinds of trees. I love them.

When I was a little girl, we had a lone tree in the parkway between the street and sidewalk in the front yard of our house. Because it was a new subdivision, my father was taller than the tree!  However, I had a taste of big trees in the Forest Preserves that are sprinkled around the Chicago area. There you can rest in the shade of old trees, have picnics and play in the cool provided by the tall trees.

There have been quite a number of trees that we have seen in our travels, many of them blending into the picture of one vast canvass of green.

Woods along stream in Tennessee
Woods along a stream in Tennessee.

However, there have been some trees that are unique and which have made a mark on my memory.

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The Octopus Tree, near Cape Meares Lighthouse, Oregon

The Octopus Tree is a Sitka spruce. According to information about the tree provided by the Friends of the Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, the tree measures more than 46 feet in circumference and has no central trunk. Instead, limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning upward. It is 105 feet tall and is estimated to be 250 to 300 years old.

This is the base of the Octopus Tree.

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Base of Octopus Tree showing no central trunk.

 

Another beautiful tree we encountered was far from the Oregon Octopus Tree. It was in Mississippi at Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis in Biloxi, Mississippi.

 

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The Friendship Tree in Biloxi, Mississippi

It is a live oak, several hundreds of years old, and it branches out over the sidewalk so that you can walk beneath it with limbs extending on both sides of you.

The lady at the gift shop said that there was a legend associated with this tree, specifically that it was called a Friendship Tree and the legend was as follows: “I am called the Friendship Oak. Those who enter my shadow will remain friends through all their lifetime.” Of course, we had to stand beneath its limbs with that legend upon our minds!

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Standing under the Friendship Tree, Biloxi, Mississippi

 

Another tree we found exceedingly beautiful is the ancient tree at the Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas.

 

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Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas

 

The ancient tree is on the mission grounds and it is another beautiful example of our Lord’s creation.

 

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Ancient tree in San Antonio at the Mission San Jose.

 

Standing beneath the branches of these magnificent trees reminds me of Scripture:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3.

 

Father, May I be found to be wise, one who delights in the law of my God. May I be found to be as a tree planted by streams of water, so that I can yield much fruit for my Savior and so that my leaf, my witness, will not fade as time goes by. I pray that I will prosper, not for myself, but to the glory and honor of my God and Father, and for the glory of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.